Leonid Finberg is a sociologist, cultural researcher, editor-in-chief of the Dukh I Litera publishing house (since 1997), and director of the Centre for Research on the History and Culture of Eastern European Jewry at NaUKMA (since 2006), who became the winner of the 2018 award for moral, spiritual, and ethical leadership, Light of Justice.

The award ceremony was held on December 14 at the Taras Shevchenko National Museum in Kyiv. The event was organised by the Institute of Leadership and Management of the Ukrainian Catholic University. Special guests of the evening were Larysa Zalyvna, winner of the 2012 award, and Bishop Borys Gudziak, president of UCU.

The Light of Justice Award was established in 2010 by Anastasiia Shkilnyk, a Canadian of Ukrainian origin, and Borys Gudziak, Bishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia and president of UCU, in honour of Anastasiia’s father, Dr. Mykhailo Shkilnyk, a lawyer and public and political figure from the time of the liberation movement in Ukraine in 1917–1920. This award is designed to draw attention to the value of leadership, the importance of moral principles in leadership, and the popularisation of examples of such leadership in Ukrainian society.

Since its foundation, the award has been given to five people: journalist and investigator of corruption schemes Natalia Sedletska (2017), former Ukrainian military Nadiia Savchenko (2015), a human rights activist from Luhansk Larysa Zalyvna (2012), leader of the Crimean Tatar national movement Mustafa Dzhemilev (2011), and publicist Yevhen Sverstiuk (2010).

This year, the winner was chosen among those who showed moral leadership during the Revolution of Dignity in 2014. It was Leonid Finberg, a sociologist, researcher, and editor-in-chief of the Dukh I Litera publishing house.

“We are searching for people who, in everyday life, give us an example of sacrifice for the development of a democratic society. What it means to be a moral leader today and what the cost of that is are questions that the West should answer. One thing is clear: such people become value orientations for us; they create islands of a new Ukraine,” says Natalia Bordun, one of the organisers of the Light of Justice Award and director of the UCU Institute of Leadership and Management.

“Every period of time has its own needs. There are people who are rewarded after a certain moment, and there are people who work purposefully and persistently. This year’s winner, Leonid Finberg, is a man of systematic work who prefers to remain in the shadows,” says Bishop Borys Gudziak. “In my opinion, Leonid Finberg always creates relationships with his networking, shows how to consolidate society, and raises topics that society does not see.” Since the 1990s, Finberg has organised many initiatives calling for Ukrainian-Jewish reconciliation. He is also one of the founders of the Dukh I Litera publishing house, which publishes critical works that bring to Ukrainian culture what was forbidden. In this context, literature on Jewish heritage plays an important role.

In a special way, the chapter wants to reward Leonid Finberg and show the public his figure during the Maidan. Not only bullets are used in modern warfare. This is also a war of information. When the new political nation of Ukrainians showed that it was reaching a new maturity, an attempt was made to suppress this movement by casting a shadow of anti-Semitism on it. At that time, Finberg, along with other Jewish patriots, conducted a systematic action, explaining to the world that Jews are also on the Maidan and also support Ukraine. Such endurance at the frontline is an example of great courage.”

The most anticipated moment of the evening was the winner’s inaugural speech.

“We didn’t notice how much we changed because we compare our lives with what we have in other countries, while we need to compare our lives today with yesterday’s,” said Leonid Finberg. “Ukrainian cinema, which is becoming famous in the world, Ukrainian theatres are being revived, and important cultural institutions are being opened. Fantastic changes are also taking place in the Ukrainian book market. We have a true philosophical library, which consists of such representatives as Andrii Baumeister and Oleh Khoma. A historical library was also created, which breaks the myths of Soviet historiography, and Judaism is developing. Humanities and literature from Ukraine clearly predominate, and more and more people are buying Ukrainian translations. Another victory is Ukrainian children’s literature, whose individual works are printed in hundreds of thousands of copies.

Another positive change is that students get unique internship opportunities at foreign universities. I don’t think they can imagine that their parents didn’t even have a chance to go abroad. There are many impressive changes, and they give us the strength to overcome difficulties that no one but us can solve. The personal responsibility club is crucial to solving the problems in Ukraine. We need to create powerful intellectual centres that will dictate to the authorities how to act and make the right decisions. The key roles in this should belong to a new generation.”


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